“Down the Shore” – Part Four in a Series

caribbeanmotel_wildwoods1

The Caribbean Motel

My final post in my “Down the Shore” series is about the small beach community of Wildwood Crest. Noted for its independently owned “Doo Wop” motels with names like the Jolly Roger, Tangiers, and Blue Marlin of the mid twentieth century, The Crest is a favorite destination spot for families.

Wildwood Crest came into existence with the dawn of the twentieth century and its history  has more than its share of memorable happenings. The Baker Brothers, successful merchants from the farm community of Vineland, had visited the area known as Five Mile Beach on several occasions and were impressed by its natural beauty and expansive beaches. They were convinced of its potential as a resort and considered its development as a profitable business investment.¹

 

Now families love to visit the Doo Wop motels of Wildwood Crest. These motels were once in danger of being demolished and replaced with high-end condos. Thankfully, there has been a movement underway to save these special places as an important part of the area’s history. These motels have quirky decor that include fake palm trees, bridges over the center of their pools, and neon signs. Once the sun goes down it is a great fun to take a ride down Atlantic and Ocean Avenues and check out these motels all lit up.

Wildwood Crest is one of five municipalities in the state that offer free public access to

Wildwood Crest Beach

Wildwood Crest beach

oceanfront beaches monitored by lifeguards. And the beaches offer plenty of space for everyone!

A favorite event for visitors is riding the tram car on the boardwalk. For decades visitors have been reminded to “Watch the tram car, please.” It is a great way for families and the elderly to enjoy the boardwalk even though they may have issues walking. Take time to play skee-ball, eat a slice, and have some frozen custard.

I hope you have enjoyed my multi-part series of the Jersey Shore. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I hope you do!

Sources:

1: https://cresthistory.org/

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“Down the Shore” – Part Two in a Series

The Jersey Shore encompasses over 140 miles of beautiful coastline. Famous for its boardwalks, arcades, and amusement piers, each shore town has its own unique vibe. Seaside Heights, which developed a bad reputation thanks to a terrible television show, is popular with teenagers and young twenty-somethings, while Wildwood Crest is more popular with families. The shore region is made up to five different counties – Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May, Middlesex, and Monmouth.

Now I will say there is a “love/hate” relationship between the full-time residents of South Jersey and the seasonal visitors of North Jersey. Seasonal visitors, often called “BENNYs” (which stands for Brooklyn/Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York), are considered rude, litter the beaches, and generally act like idiots. As a life-long North Jersey resident, I’ve seen “BENNY behavior” first hand and it is embarrassing. NJ.com even posted an article awhile back about how to not be a BENNY. At the same time, however, the summer months play a key role in the economy of these shore towns by visitors spending a lot of money on vacation, which creates jobs,  generates tax income (via crazy parking costs and tickets), and other positive local contributions. When Hurricane Sandy destroyed many of these shore towns, BENNYs (and their money) were welcomed with open arms. Quickly, however, it returned to “BENNYs go home.” If you don’t act like an ass, for the most part, visitors are treated well.

If you ask most Jersey residents, North Jersey and South Jersey are practically considered two separate states, and at one point in history, New Jersey was two separate colonies. The so-called “Central Jersey” doesn’t really exist.

Nevertheless, the Jersey Shore has a fabled and rich history.

Many people today are unaware of the role New Jersey, and especially the Raritan Bay shore, played in the lives of many pirate legends in the late l7th and early I8th centuries. The waters between Sandy Hook and New York City were infested with pirates and French privateers. Blackbeard raided farms and villages near what is today Middletown, and Captain Morgan often visited the area.¹ To this day, there are many who still search the Jersey Shore for the hidden gold of these fabled pirates.

GATE-Sandy-Hook-Lighthouse-websmall

The 250-year-old Sandy Hook Lighthouse. 
NPS / JERRY KASTEN, Volunteer-In-Parks

The barrier island of Sandy Hook, part of what is known as “The Higlands,” has a long history that predates the formation of the United States. The oldest route to the eastern coast of the United States is the Minisink Trail which started on the upper Delaware River, came through northern New Jersey and ended at the Navesink River. Navesink means “good fishing spot” in the native tongue at the time. The trail was used by Native Americans, such as the Algonquin and Lenni Lenapi tribes. They came from all over New Jersey to spend the summer fishing and finding clams. The Newasunks, Raritans, and Sachem Papomorga (or Lenni Lenapis) were the most prevalent tribes and stayed the longest. These were the tribes which mostly traded with early settlers.² Richard Hartshorne purchased a 2,320-acre tract of land from the Native Americans which provided him with control of nearly all of Sandy Hook and Highlands which was then called “Portland Poynt.” Hartshorne and his family became the first permanent settlers of the area.² Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, Sandy Hook is home to the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor. From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.³ The 1,665-acre area of Sandy Hook became part of the National Park Service in 1975 after the Army deactivated Fort Hancock. Today it is a beautiful area full of wildlife, historical buildings, great beaches, and of course that important lighthouse.

Before Atlantic City was known as “the little sister of Las Vegas,” it was known for its four miles of boardwalk, built in 1870. Since 1921, it has been home to the Miss America pageant. In 1853, the first commercial hotel, the Belloe House, was built at the intersection of Massachusetts and Atlantic Avenues.4

So as you can see, the Jersey Shore has a wonderful history. I hope you check back for my next post in this series.

Sources:

1: http://weirdnj.com/stories/mystery-history/captain-kidd/

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlands,_New_Jersey

3: http://www.visitnj.org/city/sandy-hook

4: http://www.cityofatlanticcity.org/about.aspx

“Down the Shore” – Part One in a Series

There are many places I would love to live in my beloved state of New Jersey. Some of them include Morristown, for its connection to our nation’s history; Frenchtown, for its lovely town center full of historic buildings; of course my home town of Belleville; Denville, for its quaint shopping district and small lake communities; and Layton, for its proximity to fly fishing on the Flatbrook and the art center of Peters Valley School of Craft. Well, you can now add Wildwood Crest and Cape May to my list.

Going “down the shore,” as it is referred to by Jersey residents, is a right of passage for the state’s teenagers. Like many high school seniors, I headed to Seaside Heights prom weekend to “walk the boards.” When I was dating my now husband, we would take day trips to Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park. Other than that, however, I didn’t spend much of my youth enjoying the Jersey coastline. My parents preferred going a little further south – Captiva and Sanibel in Florida.

This past week, however, we took a vacation to Wildwood Crest and took a few day trips to Cape May. I can now say I officially “get it.” It was a glorious few days.

Beach-Seagull

A lone seagull on the beach in Wildwood Crest.

We spend the week at Water’s Edge Ocean Resort in Wildwood Crest. Each morning, I sat out our oceanfront deck and enjoyed the sound of the ocean while I sipped my morning coffee and took walks on the beach in the late afternoon. If you watch the families in the area, the electronics we are all so attached to are put away most of the time and are exchanged for ping pong, playing cards, and swimming in the pool or the ocean.

I hope you enjoy this multi-part series about the Jersey Shore, Wildwood Crest, and Cape May.

Stay tuned…